"The recognition of sin
is the beginning of salvation."
~ Martin Luther
"What exactly is the Gospel? I hear that term all the time."
The word "gospel" means "good news." The Gospel is the best news ever shared.
The Gospel's good news comes with bad news. The devil doesn't want you to believe either one.
The Gospel is this: God sent His Son Jesus to the earth to die for our sins. His death may be credited to us so that we ourselves need not pay the death penalty for sin. We obtain that credit as righteousness, through our faith in Jesus Christ, by God's grace as His gift.
The bad news is that the Gospel's value to a person diminishes in proportion to how lightly one looks at sin. Here are three common views.
1) If I believe I am not quite bad enough for God to actually send me to Hell, I will neither fear God nor understand my genuine need of a Savior. Grace and Heaven will be considered an entitlement rather than a gift. I will believe I posess salvation because of my intellectual agreement or association with religion. My life will be lived for myself rather than for God. If I claim to be a Christian, my failure to bring God glory will defame His name.
The Bible says such belief, without fear of God and Hell, is less than a demon’s:
You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!
~ James 2:19 (NKJV)
2) If I understand that I am a sinner who needs salvation to avoid Hell, I'll accept God's gift of salvation. But if I think I'm not all that bad a sinner—that my sin is simply human nature—then I'll be inclined to see salvation as something collectively bestowed upon a portion of deserving humanity. I'll likely retain the self-righteous pride which looks down on the “real” sinners, struggles to extend forgiveness, and is selective with love.
I cannot love God until I get past such pride:
If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
~ 1 John 4:20 (NKJV)
3) If I believe Almighty God created me, laid down commandments which I've violated, and is offended by my sin; if I see my sin as a filthy stench which covers me and makes me offensive to a good God; and if I understand that Holy God provided the precious blood of His Son to clean away the filth of my evil because of His great love for me—then I will consider the Gospel the greatest of all good news, gratefully bow the knee before God and humbly accept His Gift, and love my Lord with all my heart forever:
"Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little."
~ Luke 7:47 (NKJV)
Here are some lies the devil does want you to believe:
• Your sin is so bad that you'll never be worthy of God's grace or love.
• If you've been saved from sin's death penalty it doesn't matter if you sin.
• Once you make Jesus Lord of your life, your problems are over.
• Problems in life indicate God's condemnation for your sin.
• If you love others then you're loving God and don't need to love Him first.
Further questions about the Gospel (or about Christianity / the Bible) are welcome.
© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
Image from the movie Passion of the Christ © 2004